Dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of fashion from an academic perspective, the quarterly journal Fashion Theory: The Journal of Dress, Body & Culture views fashion as a cultural phenomenon, offering the reader a wide range of articles by leading Western and Russian specialists, as well as classical texts on fashion theory. From the history of dress and design to body practices; from the work of well-known designers to issues around consumption in fashion; from beauty and the fashionable figure through the ages to fashion journalism, fashion and PR, fashion and city life, art and fashion, fashion and photography — Fashion Theory covers it all.
Opening with Laura Ugolini’s Consumers to Combatants? British Uniforms and Identities, 1914–18, this issue’s Dress section revisits the theme of uniforms. By the outbreak of the First World War, glamorous military uniforms and accoutrements already had a long history of luring men into the armed forces. They also played a central role in the process of transforming raw recruits into servicemen, instilling a sense of separation from civilians, and fostering esprit de corps. The purpose of this article is to investigate further the supposed differences between uniforms and civilian garments. Focusing on the experiences of British servicemen who volunteered or were conscripted into the armed forces during the First World War, it questions whether men’s sartorial practices and identities changed significantly once they put on a uniform. Did they, the article will consider, cease entirely to be shoppers and consumers once they were no longer civilians? Concentrating on the period of training, when recruits were first introduced to army life and regulations, the article will assess whether uniforms were perceived as different from other commodities, and whether taking off civilian garments also meant a shedding of the sartorial habits of pre-war civilian life.
Tatiana Pashkova’s The Adventures of the Jacket, the Peaked Cap and the Satchel: School Uniform Reform in the Second Half of the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century takes a closer look at the pre-revolutionary uniforms of gymnasium secondary school students. The changes that were made to Russian school uniforms in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth century have to this day been little studied. Paying more attention to the reigns of Alexander I and Nikolai I, researchers have usually focussed on changes in the appearance of the uniforms worn by students of different schools and higher education establishments, as well as on the symbols, rituals and behavioural practices associated with this or that uniform. In this article, the author looks at the social reasons behind changes in the uniforms worn by gymnasium and realnoye uchilische (realschule secondary school) students. Pashkova attempts to trace the shifts in social attitudes to school uniforms, as the circle of actors involved in their design gradually broadened. The main criteria used in designing uniforms also changed over time, Pashkova explains, with new factors such as price, comfort and hygiene coming to the fore. These led to the firm acceptance of distinct summer and winter versions of school uniforms, as well as to the appearance of regional variations to cater for climate. Unlike their predecessors in the first half of the nineteenth century, the groups responsible for designing school uniforms were now concerned with factors such as practicality, financial accessibility, freedom of movement and children’s health. Throughout the period in question, the range of groups directly or indirectly involved in designing uniforms grew consistently broader. Besides teachers and officials from the Ministry of National Education, these groups came to include doctors, hygienists, individual parents and parents’ committees. The decision-making process became more decentralized, and the uniforms themselves, simpler and more democratic.
Susan Hardy and Anthony Corones in their paper Dressed to Heal: The Changing Semiotics of Surgical Dress examine the change in medical dress from frock coats to white coats. The semiotics of dress is vital to understanding how and why this occurred. The article concludes that considerations of embodied identity deserve a place in the history of medicine, and that fashion theory can help illuminate aspects of medical practice that would otherwise remain invisible.
Ekaterina Kulinicheva’s A Fashion Show for Billions: The Opening Ceremony Olympic Uniform as National Dress and Design Masterpiece looks at the history and significance of the Olympic outfits worn by athletes on special occasions, including the opening ceremony. Over the 120 years that they have been running, the modern Olympic Games have become a global extravaganza of exceptional proportions and significance, eclipsing all ordinary sports and fitness events. The Olympic opening ceremony has been called the world’s greatest fashion show, with many comparing it to a catwalk display with an audience of several billion. Olympic dress, notwithstanding, remains relatively poorly researched. In this article, Ekaterina Kulinicheva attempts to trace the history of the special Olympic opening ceremony uniforms worn by athletes, looking at the main stages in their evolution, from the early twentieth century to the present day. The author also examines these uniforms in a broader cultural context as national emblems, a particular type of national dress and a design masterpiece. Looking at the requirements that these uniforms have to meet and examining the demands made on the designers, Kulinicheva attempts to define and classify the tools used in the visual construction of nationality through Olympic dress. The author also analyzes how these uniforms have been received by the public, pointing out the problematic aspects that tend to arise in this regard.
The Body section this time around is dedicated to constructs of beauty and gender identity.
Alexander Meshcheryakov contributes Japan’s Search for Female Beauty. Perceptions of human beauty relate to individual traits within the context of the canonical norms prevalent in a particular culture. These standards tend to be closely connected to the dominant anthropological type, although chance can also play a significant part. In different traditions, and even within the same culture, rosy cheeks can be seen as an indicator of healthy beauty, or as a sign of lack of culture and sophistication. In this article, Meshcheryakov traces the evolution of views on female attractiveness in Japan during the country’s transition from a traditional to a modern society. ‘Traditional Japan’ is taken by Meshcheryakov to imply the period of dominance of the shoguns from the Tokugawa house (1603–1867). Following the fall of this house, power went to the group of reformists that united around the Emperor Meiji, who ruled between 1867 and 1912. The dramatic reforms that took place during his reign radically altered all aspects of life in Japan.1 Perceptions of female beauty were also directly affected by the changes.
In Beauties and Beasts: Constructs of Meaning and Imagery of Beauty and Ugliness in Fairytales, Inna Osinovskaya, PhD, analyzes the structure of fairytale imagery associated with beauty and ugliness. Both concepts are viewed through the prism of ethics and semantic connections with epistemological motifs. Beauty and ugliness, the author suggests, are often used to imply knowledge, mendacity, good and evil. The connections are not straightforward: beauty is not always associated with truth and goodness, just as ugliness does not necessarily imply lies and evil. Both these fairytale constructs are ambivalent and dualistic. Besides analyzing such concepts, Osinovskaya pays particular attention to the field of imagery, musing on the connections that beauty and ugliness have with motifs of reflection and temporality as exemplified by images of mirrors and clocks. The author refers to a wide range of Russian and foreign folk tales and to stories from specific authors, as well as to myths. Good and evil, life and death, fear and laughter: the fairytale narrative is always a multilayered text, or rather an intertext that tells not so much of beauties and beasts, magical transformations and spells, as of the basic concepts, images and structures of existence itself.
Ekaterina Vasilieva’s The Phenomenon of the Feminine and the Figure of the Sacred looks at the institutional identity that allows us to perceive the feminine as sacred, and the sacred as feminine. The similarity of the models and mechanisms in question allows us virtually to equate the two phenomena. In speaking of the connection between the feminine and the sacred, what do we mean? In her research, Vasilieva sees these phenomena as similar and extremely close in content. Reproducing similar constructions and mechanisms, the feminine and the sacred are both realms of the hidden, the vague, the unarticulated. In this article, Vasilieva attempts to define the vector of meaning that brings together the concepts of sacred and feminine, and to study the points of contact and resemblance between these categories. Both the sacred and the feminine represent unclear territory: spaces of secret mimicry, the meaning and boundaries of which are not easy to identify. These similar qualities of the sacred and the feminine, as well as the unclear boundaries of their space and content form the main focus of Vasilieva’s article.
Joel Konrad offers his article ‘Barbarous Gallants’: Fashion, Morality, and the Marked Body in English Culture, 1590–1660. The overseas body provided an interesting and useful site of cultural understanding in early modern England. The marked body in particular was used by observers to address important questions concerning correct bodily deportment and its connection to civility, morality, and religiosity, resulting in an integration of the discourses of foreign and domestic somatic presentation. This study traces the changing English constructions of the marked body in the public discourse of the overseas world, published between 1590 and 1660, a period that witnessed important changes in attitudes towards overseas corporeality. It challenges the common assumption that the marked body was an ephemeral and fleeting subject before Cook’s Endeavour voyage, illustrating the textured and changing understanding that early modern English commentators displayed when confronted with corporeal alteration in the overseas world. In particular, it explores the reflexive contemplation overseas ornamentation engendered in England during the early years of English colonial endeavour.
In this issue’s Culture section, we offer the first part of the papers presented in the ‘Fashion and Lies’ panel of the conference ‘The Lie and Lying as a Factor of Social Life: Practices and Texts’. Organized by the New Literary Observer publishing house together with the European University at St. Petersburg, the conference took place at the European University at St. Petersburg on 28–29 May, 2016.
Alison David Matthews contributes Criminal Fronts and Undercover Cops: Fashioning Deception through Dress. Criminals deliberately manipulate their dress to commit crimes and elude detection. Clothing and accessories have been central to creating these false fronts, and include pockets designed to smuggle goods, masks or gloves to shroud identity, and soft-soled, silent footwear that muffles the sounds of the cat burglar. While clothing can mask visual, tactile or auditory cues, it can also produce more extreme transformations in the wearer’s gender or silhouette. The surviving arm covering devised by famous Victorian burglar and murderer Charles Peace (1832–1879) used a hook attachment to conceal the three fingers he was missing on one hand. By contrast, since the nineteenth century, law enforcement officials have been dressed in crisp, tailored, highly visible uniforms, with rank and badges of office on display. Yet, when detectives or ‘plain-clothes’ officers dress as civilians or even criminals to pursue suspects, policing turns into a sartorial game of cat and mouse. The act of going literally ‘under cover’ leads to ambiguous situations and interactions, for example when female vice officers dress as sex workers to serve as decoys. This paper explores the moral, ethical, and psychological implications of dress for both criminals, who aim to deceive, and undercover agents, who use disguise and self-fashioning to perform an even more complex deception in the name of the law.
Jo Turney offers Deceitful Dressing or No Sweat[s]: Non-Sporting Out fits for Armchair Athletes. This paper investigates the contemporary phenomena of the re-appropriation of sportswear (specifically the tracksuit) into everyday/non-sporting dress. Following recent media moral panics regarding social disobedience, deviant behaviour, lack of civic responsibility and consequent links to masculinity in crisis, issues surrounding sartorial coding have never been so central to the political agenda (i.e. ‘hoodie’ is an object; but it is also a person deemed outside normative culture and society). From ASBO youths to casual loungers, acrylic sportswear has become a staple of the male wardrobe, particularly for those not engaged in sporting pursuits. This paper, much like the tracksuit, is composed of two distinct but interdependent areas of enquiry that aim to consider sport-less sportswear, its popularity and why these synthetic garments pose such a threat to the status quo. These are, the subversion of normative dress codes, and, contemporary performances of masculinity in a ‘leisure’ society. Here, the juxtaposition of the words ‘track’ and ‘suit’ will present a critique of the construction of masculine ideals through dress, whilst the performance of dominant and formal modes of masculine behaviour (such as sport and competition) will be comparatively discussed with reference to informal and anti-social activities. The two-piece tracksuit is therefore presented as indicative of new binary codes that dictate popular performance modes of masculinity, i.e. competition/ consumption, competitor/ spectator, active/passive, smart/casual, etc. It could be considered a deceitful garment as its exterior articulates a ‘wholesomeness’ whilst simultaneously concealing a converse intent. By analysing this prolific and seemingly innocuous sporting garb as both object and myth, the discussion positions the tracksuit as a sign of transitory masculinities and consequently indicative of social instability, and possible social threat. The tracksuit heralds the death of patriarchy. As an item of sportswear, the tracksuit is a pre-performance garment; it warms the wearer, keeping muscles flexible and the wearer largely hidden, and only through its removal are the intentions of the wearer as competitor visible. It is a garment of restlessness, of preparation, of thinking, of focus and ultimately one that when unzipped, literally releases the beast. In everyday life, the tracksuit has similar properties; it hides the wearer and by association, intent. But what and whom are in competition? What will be released when the body (potentially) emerges? The tracksuit, when worn on the street, will be considered in these terms: as the garb of the socially resting competitor; the temporary outsider for whom normative codes of behaviour and performance are viewed suspiciously from the sidelines.
Irina Sirotkina presents Dress as Truth and New Mythology: The Costumed Performance Art of Perestroika. Besides covering, draping and concealing, clothing can also bare, bring forth and reveal. In her article, Sirotkina focuses on dress as protest: the alternative fashion of denial and defiance. An international phenomenon, alternative fashion is often closely connected with radical groups and practices, in art, for instance. In taking a stance against the authorities, the establishment and generally accepted norms, which its proponents see as ‘false’, alternative fashion claims instead to represent ‘truth’. In the USSR, rock musicians, hippies, punks and other youth subcultures were considered outside the boundaries of social acceptability, their outfits frequently shocking to the public. This article looks at the first examples of the costumed performance art that became possible in the mid-1980s with the beginning of Perestroika.
In this issue’s Museum Business column, Valerie Steele looks at one of the greatest exhibition hits of the last few decades, ‘Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty’.
In the Practice of Fashion column, we offer Orna Ben Meir’s interview with Israeli footwear designer Kobi Levi.
In our new Details column, we present Anna Solo’s study Those Daring Ruffles on Her Dress. Turning to those particularly endearing features of dress, ruffles, frills and flounces, Solo looks at the main periods in history that contributed to form the ruffle’s semantic field. She also shows exactly what makes the ruffle one of the key details in dress to denote femininity. Tracing the evolution of the frill’s structure and form, Solo examines the relationship between the frill as decorative element, and the item it decorates. Finally, looking at the role ruffles can play in the interaction of a figure with its background, the author offers examples from the recent collections of leading designers, and discusses the creations of the next generation, students from Shenkar College in Israel’s Tel Aviv.
In the Events section, Sara Idacavage offers This Is David Bowie, her review of ‘David Bowie Is’ at the Paris Philharmonie (3 March — 31 May 2015).
In Changing the Rules of the Game: Avant-Garde Designers at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Antwerp, Ira Solomatina reviews ‘Walter Van Beirendonck. Dream the World Awake’ at the Antwerp Museum of Contemporary Art (14 September 2011 — 19 February 2012).
In Virtual Bjцrk, Ellen Mcintyre shares her impressions of ‘Bjцrk Digital’ at London’s Somerset House (1 September — 23 October 2016).
Hans J. Rindisbacher and Larisa Rudova offer When Elegant Men Are in Charge: 300 Years of Men’s Fashion, their take on ‘Reigning Men: Fashion in Menswear, 1715–2015’ at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (10 April — 21 August 2016).
Raisa Kirsanova contributes A Russian Fashion Legend, her review of ‘The Designer that Stanislavsky Believed: The 155th Anniversary of the Birth of Nadezhda Lamanova. Stage Costumes from the Collection of the Moscow Art Theatre Museum’ at Moscow’s Museum of Fashion (8 June — 4 September 2016).
In Death and Marriage Are Sisters, Or Once More on the Military Wedding Fashions of the Sixteenth Century, Bella Shapiro takes a look at ‘Royal Games. Late Renaissance Western European Arms and Armour from the Collection of the Historical Museum’ at the State Historical Museum in Moscow (16 June — 17 October 2016).
Ekaterina Kulinicheva’s A Moirй Sarafan and a ‘Moskvitch’ in the Wardrobe reviews ‘Festive Dress of the Peoples of Russia from the Collection of the Historical Museum’ at the State Historical Museum in Moscow (28 June — 3 October 2016).
Liuba Popova visits ‘Just Married. A History of Marriage’ at the Brussels Museum of Costume and Lace (2 June 2016 — 16 April 2017), and brings us Wedding Dresses and Sex and the City.
In Diamond Smoke, Ekaterina Shubnaya shares her thoughts on ‘The Elegance and Splendour of Art Deco’, running in the One-Pillar Chamber of the Patriarch’s Palace and in the Exhibition Hall of the Assumption Belfry of the Moscow Kremlin (30 September 2016 — 11 January 2017).
In this issue’s Books section, Alicia Kerfoot offers Where Wardrobe Meets Literature, her review of Chloe Wigston Smith’s Women, Work, and Clothes in the Eighteenth-Century Novel. Cambridge University Press, 2013, 269 pp.
In Boundless Casual, Jennifer Le Zotte reviews Deirdre Clemente’s Dress Casual: How College Students Redefine d American Style. University of North Carolina Press, 2014, 208 pp.
In The Political Meaning of Dress, Liuba Popova takes a look at ‘Un Usage Politique du Vкtement (XVIIIe — XXe Siècles)’ (‘The Political Use of Dress from the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Century’) in the Cahiers d’Histoire Revue d’Histoire Critique, 2015, no. 129, October — December.
Ekaterina Shubnaya offers I Just Work as a Magician, her take on Brownie B., Graydon D. The Superhero Costume: Identity and Disguise in Fact and Fiction, Bloomsbury Academic, 2015, 192 pp.
 . For a more detailed account, see A.N.Meshcheryakov, Imperator Meiji i Yego Yaponiya (Emperor Meiji and His Japan), Moscow, Natalis, 2006.